Saturday, January 21, 2006

Daisy and I had an hour to kill this morning so she suggested that we do a science experiment out of her activity book. I quietly thanked no one in particular for giving me a nerd-friendly child and agreed. Daisy then picked out a page and thrust it at me. I read the list of required materials:
  • A glass bottle
  • Paper
  • Matches
  • A peeled hard boiled egg
(Note: Daisy is very allergic to eggs. We have been instructed by her pediatrician that if she consumes eggs, we are to instantly stab her with a shot of epinephrine and then immediately drive her to the emergency room.)

Ok, so that list includes fire, glass, and a seriously major allergen for my daughter. Super. If you replaced "Paper" with "A child molester" it would be the perfect quadfecta of child danger. I thoughtfully considered this activity and realized that the alternative could very well be a game of "Daddy, I'll pretend to be the baby mouse and you'll be the mommy mouse!"

I found an empty wine bottle, a lighter, a few eggs, and a newspaper. Experiment on.

The instructions said to light the paper on fire, drop it into the bottle, and then place the hard-boiled egg on top of the bottle. The idea was that the burning paper would consume the oxygen in the bottle, creating a vacuum, which would then suck the egg down into the bottle. I tried to explain the physics of this to Daisy, but it's not easy to explain the concepts of vacuum and atmospheric pressure to a six year old. Luckily the lecture had a big finish, when I brought it home with "Look, fire!"

I am pleased to report that my daughter can touch eggs without having a reaction. I am displeased to report that this experiment is really hard to perform if the glass bottle in question is long-necked. By the time I got the flaming paper down into the bottle, the fire was extinguished, resulting in a unspectacular yet sooty egg.

We almost nailed it on one of the iterations, but the vacuum merely broke the egg apart, only sucking a piece of it down into the bottle. The instructions failed to mention that burnt egg doesn't smell so good.

Science is hard.


Mike Duffy said...

I think the canonical experiment involves the quaint artifact known as a "milk bottle."

The experiment is much easier when the mouth of the bottle is larger than the diameter of the egg.

I applaud your daring use of a wine bottle.

Mike said...

Mike, indeed a traditional wine bottle was not the right shape, but it was the only type of bottle available. Had I been willing to consume a bunch of liquor on the spot, my options would have been better. However, having a small diameter on the opening is mandatory, since the "magic" is that a wide egg will end up fitting through a narrow opening.

zelda1 said...

My son, when he was a mere babe of seven, had a birthday party. I made him his traditional huge cake and for some reason it began to grow in the center and soon it was like a huge mound and then bubbles came out of the top and it looked like a volcanic mountin with larva and everything. So I iced the cake and his friends thought the cake was cool, the mothers all rolled their eyes at the single mother of two who couldn't even bake an out of the box type cake. So time went on and one day, I was reading in my son's school journal. They had to write what they like. He said, "I like my mommy best in the world. she can make an exploding cake
and it looks real, and taste like a real burning mountain." Years later, he and I were talking about his birthday blunders and he said, "How did you ever make that volcanic cake?" I said, "It was a science experiment gone bad." Then of course I had to explain that I, at the time, was not a baker, so for it to have any cooked was a major thing. Your daughter will grow up with all kinds of memories like the egg in the wine bottle and it isn't important whether it was a success or not, what is in important is the memory of the two of you putting heads together to do something wonderful, and to her it will have succeeded.

Mike said...

Zelda, that's a charming story, but I can assure you that my daugher is well aware that this experiment failed.

Tasty said...

While she may be totally aware that the experiment failed, she will remember you guys did that together. My mom can't sing worth a snot, but I fondly remember singing Girl Scout songs with her. ;-)

Mike said...

Tasty, I don't know what kind of Norman Rockwell picture you and Zelda grew up in, but I'll bet big bucks that my daughter's main memory from that day will be that the egg never made it into the bottle.

Tasty said...

That's because you're curmudgeonly.

Mike said...

Am not!

laughn' lady said...

I think your funny, and that's what your daughter will remember most!

Mike said...

Laughn' Lady, thanks! You don't even know how much time I spend each day trying to convince my daughter that I'm funny.